Thanks for all your feedback:
Muriel Horacek: ‘I ordered wildlife artist Robert Bateman’s book An Artist in Nature from Amazon as a ‘used’ book (original price $60, ‘used’ price $24.95). But when I received it, I realized it was actually a new book. I promptly ordered several more to give as gifts to friends.’
Paul Jakubowski: ‘One of Amazon’s used-book vendors is an outfit called Tartan Books. They sell brand NEW books that are ‘remainders’ of best sellers. So if you can wait until just before a hardback goes into paperback, you can get a $25 book for three bucks. You can buy one book up to a whole pallet of books that they choose for you. You can deal with them through Amazon, or directly. Check them out.’
Paul Langley: ‘I have used Amazon to buy used books, CDs and the like for several months now, and even sold over $1,000 worth of my own used stuff and have a 4.9 Seller Rating. BUT there’s even someplace better to do this (as I’m sure a zillion of your readers will probably write to tell you) and that’s half.com. They handle the whole thing for you just like Amazon. They don’t have One Click, but they do have something very similar called ‘Speedy Checkout.’ The shipping is cheaper too: $2.30 for a paperback or CD and $2.99 for a hardcover for Media Mail vs. $3.49 on Amazon. (Most of the sellers on half.com also offer $4.55 Priority Mail delivery.)
‘You are also apt to find cheaper prices at half.com because their commission is cheaper than Amazon (the same 15% of sale plus a cut of the postage, but Amazon also takes 99 cents per item). So to just make a penny on an item that Aunt Sally gave you – and that you hated – you have to charge $1.18 on Amazon, whereas on half.com you could in theory sell it for 2 cents and make a penny (there is however a rule that requires a minimum price of 75 cents). In reality what all this means is that items cost at least a $1 more on Amazon plus more for postage too. I’ve sold about $2000 worth of stuff at half.com where I have a 5.0 Seller Rating.
‘And lest you think that half.com is a fly-by-night, they are owned by eBay (ever heard of them?). Check them out.’
Jacki Stirn: ‘While I’m not selling books from a blanket outside B&N, I have sold used books through Amazon. I had a buyer who wanted faster shipping and emailed me. I sent the book priority mail, emailed him with the additional cost and he sent me a check. It turned out to be pretty easy all around. While I also sell though half.com and they do allow buyers to specify faster shipping, I usually get better prices for my books selling through Amazon.’
Kathryn Lance: ‘Oh, gosh, as a member of ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors, the premier organization for nonfiction writers), I must protest the way Amazon pushes the used copies right next to the links to the new copies of books. As someone who makes her entire living through writing books, I don’t want to see someone buying a used copy of a book of mine that was just published. ASJA is currently negotiating with Amazon to get them to at least move the button advertising used books.’
Dickson Pratt: ‘Another reason to like Amazon is the Amazon edition of the Nextcard Visa. The current version pays 1% back in Amazon gift certificates for regular purchases and 3% back for Amazon purchases. [The previous version, which I have, pays 2% and 6% respectively; the higher rates appear to be grandfathered for now.] And, like many cards, Nextcard can be paid on-line; no fussing with stamps and checks. I recently used the card to buy a bunch of Series I Savings Bonds – 2% rebate, well over a month float on the card, what a deal!’
Paul O’Donnell: ‘Used books are also available at barnesandnoble.com.’
Michael Burns: ‘If you really get into used books in a big way, especially really old books, the major site used by library (or people like me who buy thousands of dollars each year of technical books), is the Advanced Book Exchange (abebooks.com). Basically, they are a match-maker for used bookstores around the world. ABE will usually give you the option of handling the credit card transaction through them, or dealing with the specific bookstore directly.’
Dan Nachbar: ‘I too love Amazon’s features. But you should know that it is no accident that one-click is rarely found elsewhere. In fact, there is an ongoing boycott of Amazon within the computer community in response to Amazon’s irresponsible efforts monopolize one-click shopping.
‘The short version of the story is that through pure luck (really) Amazon was granted a patent for ‘one-click’ shopping. In fact, Amazon absolutely did not invent ‘one-click’ shopping. They have an excellent implementation, but they were not original. (I can explain why people are getting patents these days for things they don’t invent if you wish, but ask any computer person and they’ll confirm the fact.)
‘Unfortunately, many such mistakes have been made by the patent office. Most companies that are granted a bogus patents typically just file them away as ‘insurance.’ Sadly, Amazon has chosen to chase around other sites that also have one-click shopping and force them to remove the feature or pay tribute. While everyone knows Amazon can’t possibly enforce their patent in the end, Amazon has succeeded in making people take one-click shopping off their sites because most companies can’t afford an expensive patent court battle.
‘Please reconsider your unbridled endorsement of a company that is engaging in this sort of thuggery. Amazon’s actions are bad for consumers (it keeps a very useful feature from being widely implemented) and are an irresponsible assault on intellectual freedom. For an eloquent discussion about the intellectual freedom issue, click here.’
Joe Devney: ‘In your column today you praised Amazon’s ‘buy this book used’ feature as a consumer. If you put on your author’s hat, things might look different. Suppose I recommend your last book to my brother, and he goes to the Amazon Web site ready to buy it. This is good news for you as the author. But when he tries to order the book, Amazon encourages him to buy a used copy to save even more money. This is bad news for you as the author. The book is cheaper used partly because there is no need to pay an author’s royalty – you get nothing from the sale. Amazon’s policy of steering people who are ready and willing to buy the new book to the used market is a disservice to authors.’
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Quote of the Day
Guys, just remember: if you get real lucky, if you make a lot of money, if you go out and buy a lot of stuff, it's gonna break. You got your biggest, fanciest mansion in the world. It has air conditioning. It has a pool. Just think of all the pumps that are going to go out. Or go to a yacht basin any place in the world. Nobody is smiling and I'll tell you why: something broke that morning. The generator's out, the microwave oven doesn't work, the cook's gay. Things just don't mean happiness.~Ross Perot to Harvard B-School students, quoted in Forbes
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